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Apple Restricts AirDrop Tool Reportedly Used By China’s Anti-Lockdown Protestors

Photo by JADE GAO/AFP via Getty Images

James Lynch Reporter
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Apple on Nov. 9 restricted the use of AirDrop in China, a key communications tool reportedly used by China’s protestors against “zero-COVID” lockdowns, according to business news outlet Quartz.

Public protests erupted in cities throughout China in late November in response to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) “zero- COVID” lockdown guidelines, the Associated Press reported (AP). It was the most prominent expression of public dissent in decades, according to the outlet.

Past protests against the Chinese government have used Apple’s AirDrop feature to communicate without strict censorship, because the tool enables phones to connect directly, according to Quartz. Apple’s website touts AirDrop as a tool for sharing photos, documents and other files with nearby Apple devices.

The feature has enabled protestors in Hong Kong and on China’s college campuses to coordinate with each other and spread messages to tourists and other protestors, Quartz reported in a Sunday article. AirDrop had been a crack in China’s “Great Firewall” apparatus of information control online, the most sophisticated of its kind, according to Stanford researchers. (RELATED: Navy Rejects China’s Condemnation Of US Navigation Exercise Near Disputed Territory)

When Apple released an updated version of its operating system earlier in November, AirDrop file sharing was restricted to 10 minutes, Bloomberg reported. The restriction was applied to iPhones selling in mainland China, according to Quartz. Apple purportedly plans to make the change a global standard in 2023.

The Apple update came shortly after Xi Jinping secured a third term as CCP leader, which was reportedly met with smaller protests at the time. November’s protests began after a residential fire in the city of Urumqi killed at least 10 people, in part due to a delayed response from firefighters caused by lockdown barricades, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported Friday.

Widely circulated clips show fire engines unable to gain access to the residential area, as firefighters took four hours to put out the blaze, according to SCMP. State media claimed the area was a “low-risk” location where residents could go outside, but some online users pointed to health code guidelines showing it was a high-risk area, according to the outlet.

Urumqi is the regional capital of Xinjiang and has been on lockdown since Aug. 10. Some Chinese cities such as Beijing have slightly eased COVID rules and warned essential exits are not to be blocked off in response to widespread protests following the fire, SCMP reported.

Hundreds of workers recently protested at the world’s largest iPhone factory located in Zhengzhou, China, the BBC reported Nov. 23. The factory is run by manufacturing giant Foxconn, and the company claimed in a statement that workers were concerned about pay, the outlet continued. Zhengzhou announced Tuesday it will be lifting its lockdown and replacing it with other COVID measures, Bloomberg reported.

Apple did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment.